College basketball tale of the tape: Mohamed Bamba vs. Jaren Jackson
In this edition of college basketball film study, we'll break down stud freshmen Mohamed Bamba (Texas) and Jaren Jackson (Michigan State). In case you missed it, here’s our most recent tale of the tape featuring Miles and Mikal Bridges.
Let’s take a look at the numbers. These aren’t per game averages, but rather per-40 minute numbers to account for the difference in playing time:
Bamba is a more impactful defender and rebounder; Jackson is a better scorer, and generally more well-rounded. Side note: Bamba has just four assists in 413 total minutes. While he’s not expected to be Trae Young, that’s a bit alarming.
This is a huge positive for both players. Bamba has a freakish 7-9 wingspan — turn on a Texas broadcast, and you’ll hear at least once per game that he can grab coins off the top of the backboard when he’s feeling ambitious.
That length is incredibly valuable. It allows Bamba to block shots other players can’t, and to contest shots others wouldn’t even consider. If he gets beat off of the dribble by a speedy guard, it doesn’t take long for Bamba to recover; in a case where 99 percent of guys would be out of the play, Bamba can extend his arm and alter a shot.
Bamba is only listed at 225 pounds, and strength is probably his biggest concern – but by no means is he weak. Watch here as 280-pound Udoka Azubuike tries to bully Bamba down low, who is having absolutely none of it:
He just toyed with one of the strongest centers in America there. Bamba’s physical stature is a big reason why he’s so effective.
Jackson doesn’t have the freakish dimensions of Bamba, but he’s stronger and more explosive. Listed at 6-11, 242, Jackson has the girth to play center and the agility to play power forward. He’ll regularly do stuff like this:
But Bamba has the ability to completely shut down the paint based on his length. Jackson is a plus athlete, but Bamba’s length impacts games more.
Bamba’s defensive dominance on the interior doesn’t translate to the offensive end as frequently. He’s improving, but still raw. Bamba is an ideal pick-and-roll partner in theory; with his long arms and springy legs, he should be able to dunk everything in sight.
He can… if he catches the ball cleanly. That’s a big if. Bamba is averaging 1.6 turnovers — while that may not look like a huge number, it’s high for a center who’s rarely asked to handle the ball. Bamba’s post game isn’t great, but he’s an instinctual offensive rebounder who can eat smaller opponents alive on putbacks. He’s averaging 3.4 offensive boards per game. Babma is an effective offensive player, even if he looks a bit awkward doing it.
But Jackson is more useful on that end. He’s rarely asked to post up, but he’s displayed a nifty face-up game. Players his size shouldn’t be able to do this:
Jackson is a good ball-handler given his frame. He has nice touch and soft hands; Jackson can catch passes in tight quarters, which allows Michigan State to play with more freedom:
He has the edge here.
Bamba is arguably the best defender in college basketball. He’s second in the country in blocks, and Texas’ defense is stout mostly because of him — the Longhorns rank fifth on that end. Bamba is averaging more than six blocks per 40 minutes; foes shoot just 43.6 percent on 2s against Texas, a ghastly number.
Of course, he’s effective because of his length and athleticism, but he’s also incredibly intuitive. Bamba easily could have been sealed off on this drive against Alabama, but he sniffs out the play well before it happens. Bamba almost hides behind his man, emerges at the last minute, and denies the shot:
He’s as good of a rim-protector as was advertised. Jackson, to his credit, is also an excellent interior deterrent. He’s almost averaging as many blocks per 40 minutes as Bamba, and the Spartans rank just one spot behind the Longhorns in defensive rating. Jackson is more stout in the post than Bamba thanks to his superior strength.
Jackson is a great college defender; but Bamba is a transcendent one who will remind viewers of Emeka Okafor. Bamba makes watching defense fun. How many players can you say that about?
Based on numbers, we’ll have to go with Bamba — but again, both players thrive here.
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It's splitting hairs, but Bamba’s rebounding radius in insane — and frankly, unparalleled.
This is clearly Jackson’s biggest advantage over Bamba. Jackson’s jump shot mechanics may not be pretty, but he’s draining 44 percent of his 3s on almost three attempts per game — he’s a legitimate perimeter weapon for the Spartans, who badly need his spacing. Many questioned Tom Izzo for playing Ward, Jackson and Bridges together so often; Bridges would be better-suited at the four. But Jackson’s shooting is the reason why it works.
Yes, the release is funky. But it goes in, and the release is quick, which is what matters most. No hesitation here:
We saw earlier that Jackson has a nice dribble-drive game; close out too aggressively, and he’ll rampage to the rim. We don’t know if Jackson is a good passer — Izzo doesn’t ask him to facilitate too often. One thing we do know: he has a high basketball IQ. Call it a hunch, but if Izzo ran the offense through Jackson in the high post, Michigan State would be fine.
Bamba is a better shooter than you’d think — his mechanics are better than Jackson’s — but he’s only making 23 percent of his 3s, and opponents invite him to take outside shots. It feels like Bamba will be a good shooter in five years, but he’s not there yet.
And we mentioned the four assists in 413 minutes earlier. That could be a problem. Opponents would be wise to send more double teams his way; Texas’ guards aren’t great shooters, which is part of the issue. But he hasn’t displayed good offensive feel to this point.
Jackson is more agile and can guard more positions than Bamba – his top defensive skill isn’t as dominant as Bamba’s, but he’s more versatile. Jackson can slide his feet with wings or bang in the post. It’s the reason why Izzo doesn’t feel obligated to use him at center, and Michigan State can still field the No. 6 defense.
But remember how we mentioned Bamba’s superb recovery ability earlier? Watch this:
As a ball-handler, if you get most defenders on your hip, you’ve beaten them. Not Bamba. That 7-9 wingspan is a problem for opposing offenses.
Bamba can also be clumsy on his feet; teams would be wise to run him through more ball screens to get him away from the hoop. Bamba is better than one would expect in those situations, but if he’s not near the rim, it’s a win.
Jackson is more reliable on the perimeter, but both guys have the potential to excel here.
Jackson is the type of guy who can fit into any team construct. He can play center or power forward and be a two-way force. Bamba’s rim-protection is unparalleled, and depending on the system, he may be a more attractive piece.
But as an overall player, Jackson is simply more useful. That said – both of these guys are a joy to watch.
Slight edge: Jackson